The Toronto Raptors have now dropped five in a row after a 114-102 loss to the Chicago Bulls Thursday night.
Chicago, which moves to 30-40 on the season, was led by an efficient 24 points from All-Star Zach LaVine, while All-Star Nikola Vucevic finished with 16 points, 16 rebounds and six assists. For Toronto, Stanley Johnson led the way with a career-high 35 points and four other Raptors finished in double-figures, including rookie Jalen Harris, who set a new career-high with 17 points.
For more on how it went down, here are some thoughts from the game…
Toronto's seven-man rotation
Ahead of the game, the injury report included OG Anunoby, Rodney Hood, Kyle Lowry, Pascal Siakam, Fred VanVleet and Paul Watson, who were all ruled as out.
Further complicating matters was the status of Chris Boucher, who was upgraded to available due to his knee, but ultimately didn't play. Yuta Watanabe, on the other hand, experienced ankle soreness after getting the start and was ruled out for the night. With Gary Trent Jr. also not seeing the floor in this one, Toronto's rotation was limited to seven men.
Malachi Flynn, Jalen Harris, Johnson, Khem Birch, Freddie Gillespie, DeAndre' Bembry and Aron Baynes were the seven to log heavy minutes.
Stanimal steps up
In the eight games leading up to this one, Stanley Johnson scored a total of 23 points. Total.
On Thursday, Johnson set a new career-high with 35 points.
The 24-year-old did a little bit of everything, shooting 6-for-13 from beyond the arc, which is another career-best. He made it a double-double by pulling down 10 rebounds, while also dishing out five assists and grabbing three steals in 43 minutes of action.
MANS HOT pic.twitter.com/fc72Ntjsut- Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) May 14, 2021
An impending free agent, Johnson did a great job showing what he can bring to the table
First career start means a career-high for Harris
After missing serious time with a hip pointer, last year's No. 59 pick is finally getting an opportunity to show what he's capable of.
And he's looking like a steal.
🗣️ We The North pic.twitter.com/B1YQlhl1qN- Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) May 14, 2021
Toronto's lengthy injury report meant that the 22-year-old would get his first career start alongside his fellow rookie in Flynn. As a starter, Harris set a new career-high for the third time this season.
After scoring 10 points in the opening frame, Harris finished the game with 17 points on 7-for-12 shooting from the floor.
Chicago stays alive
So… you're telling me there's a chance?
By virtue of owning the tiebreaker over the Washington Wizards, the Bulls kept their slim chances at a Play-In Tournament alive with Thursday night's win.
At 30-40, Chicago is two games behind Washington, which is 32-38. For the Bulls to make it in, they'd have to win their remaining games, while the Wizards would need to lose out.
Chicago closes with the Brooklyn Nets and Milwaukee Bucks, while the Wizards face the Cleveland Cavaliers and Charlotte Hornets. The schedule may favour Washington, but it's not over until it's over. As they no longer own their first-rounder, the Bulls still have plenty to play for.
Toronto's Lottery odds are set
Speaking of the number seven. It's more than just Thursday's rotation.
With tonight's loss, Toronto will finish the season with the league's 24th-worst record, or, depending on how you look at it, the seventh-best odds in the 2021 NBA Draft Lottery. With the Raptors' finish, they will have a 31.9 percent chance of landing a top-four pick in the 2021 NBA Draft.
The 2021 NBA Draft Lottery is on June 22 while the NBA Draft takes place on July 29.
Just two games remain for the Raptors, who are back in action tomorrow when they travel to Dallas to take on Luka Doncic and the Mavericks at 9:00 p.m. ET.
Dallas still is playing for seeding in the West, so it could be a high-intensity meeting. Catch you then.
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